KANSAS CITY, Mo.: Everybody has heard it, and lots of fans buy into it.
The conventional wisdom in Cleveland goes something like this: ""The Indians can't win until their out of the race, and the pressure is off. That's why they can trade their best players in the middle of the season and finish strong.''
Those who adopt this attitude have the numbers on their side. Since July 21, the Tribe's record is 19-12, compared to 36-57 before that date, even though Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Garko, Rafael Betancourt and Ben Francisco have been traded.
""I hear that,'' manager Eric Wedge said Tuesday. ""In '05, not one person thought we'd be in it at the All-Star break, and with a week to go we were right there. In '07, every game meant something. That's the way it is in the big leagues.''
Wedge's attitude is that players perform with stress all the time just to maintain their status on the team and to stay in the majors.
""For people to say these games don't mean anything and that there's no pressure is ridiculous,'' the manager said. ""They're getting paid to play, and people are paying money to watch them, so every game means something.''
The other issue is this: Two years in a row, the Tribe has traded away one or more key players yet began winning with a less experienced and seemingly less talented roster.
"That's just hard to understand,'' Wedge said. ""We're more athletic now, and our bullpen has settled down. The starters are also going deeper in games.
"After the trades, we became a different team. We've run a little more, gotten people to be more active. I think for awhile, we thought we wouldn't be able to score unless we hit home runs. But we were too one dimensional. Now, we've learned we can score in other ways.''
The bullpen followed by the rotation began the team's skid early in the schedule. It also didn't help that three starters will end up missing most or all of the season with injuries: Jake Westbrook, Anthony Reyes and Scott Lewis. ¶
""We have better arms in the bullpen now,'' said Wedge, referring to newcomers Chris Perez, Jess Todd and Tony Sipp. ""They don't have to be perfect (with their location). That's real. I can also say that that from a rotation aspect, we've become more stable.'' ¶
The current rotation of Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Sowers, Justin Masterson and David Huff is keeping the Indians in games longer. ¶
SIZEMORE SITS -- Grady Sizemore got the night off to rest the ailing elbow that has affected his play all season. ¶
""We needed to get him out of there yesterday or today,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""This is a good day to do it, because Justin Masterson puts a lot of balls on the ground.'' ¶
Before he hurt his elbow, Sizemore resisted being given a day off. ¶
""He's better about it now,'' Wedge said. ""I'll be glad to get back to where he's fighting me.'' ¶
Shin-Soo Choo played center in place of Sizemore, and Jamey Caroll took over for Choo in right. It was Choo's 10th career start in center field and his first since July 7, 2006, when he was with the Mariners. ¶
Carroll has played only four games in the outfield this year, but even when he plays a new position, he looks like he's been there. ¶
""He's a pro,'' Wedge said. ""He has a good heartbeat. He prepares well and he understands the game.'' ¶
TAKING A BREAK -- Wedge said he will rest Travis Hafner and his surgically repaired shoulder today. ¶
""This is the first time he's played four days in a row,'' Wedge said. ""He's not going to be back to where he was this year. He has to give that shoulder some down time this winter.'' ¶
FARM FACTS -- Lucas Montero hit his fourth home run of the year, and Adam Davis had two hits in Kinston's 7-4 loss to Frederick. *elip Trey Haley (4-7, 5.43 ERA) threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out seven, as Lake County beat Lakewood 2-0 in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, Donnie Webb had three hits and three RBI in the Captains' 8-3 win. T.J. McFarland (8-4, 3.56 ERA) gave up one earned run (two total) in five innings. *elip Jordan Henry had four hits and one RBI, and Casey Frawley had two doubles, a single and two RBI, as Mahoning Valley routed Auburn 12-1. Brett Brach (4-2, 2.32 ERA) gave up one run and one hit in six innings. ¶